The deep, cold waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound hold some of the best-tasting saltwater fish in the North Pacific region. Sablefish (also known as black cod) are near the top of this list, and that’s what Keith DeGraff was fishing for on July 28 when he hooked what felt like a halibut in roughly 1,000 feet of water. The fish turned out to be a massive shortraker rockfish that stands to replace the state record for the species.
There’s also a chance that DeGraff’s rockfish would have outweighed the current world record. We’ll never know for sure, though, because DeGraff cared more about preserving the meat than certifying a record, according to Saltwater Sportsman.
A charter captain who lives in Eagle River, DeGraff was out that day with his fiancée Betsey Wilson and three friends. They’d rented a boat dubbed the Salmon Shark from Whittier Marine and were staying at a remote lodge in the area.
On their second drift, DeGraff dropped an 18/0 circle hook baited with pink salmon and herring into the depths and hooked up right away. Using stout tackle and 80-pound-test braided line, he muscled the fish to the surface thinking it was a halibut the whole time.
“With a thousand feet of line out, it can be hard to tell,” he told Saltwater Sportsman. “When we got it to the surface, it was the biggest rockfish I’d ever seen.”
DeGraff dropped the rockfish in the cooler, and they kept on fishing. When the group got back to the lodge, he put it on a scale and recorded an unofficial weight of 48 pounds. This easily outweighed the standing state record of 39.1 pounds. It was also approaching world-record status. The current IGFA all-tackle world record for shortraker rockfish is 44.1 pounds.
But since they were at a remote lodge, DeGraff knew he wouldn’t be able to get his rockfish on a certified scale for at least three days. He decided to bleed the fish, which helps preserve the meat and is a common practice for anglers trying to get the best-tasting filets. This also makes the fish weigh less, but for DeGraff, it was an easy decision.
“I wasn’t going to taint the meat for the sake of a record,” he said.
Saltwater Sportsman reports that DeGraff’s rockfish wouldn’t have qualified for an IGFA record anyways because his rod was in a rod holder when he reeled the fish in. (IGFA regulations dictate that the rod must be held in hand and cannot be passed off to another angler during the fight.)
Days later, DeGraff weighed his rockfish on a certified scale with an official from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game present. They recorded an official weight of 42.4 pounds, which was more than heavy enough to set a new state record.
The post State-Record Rockfish Could Have Outweighed the World Record appeared first on Outdoor Life.
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